Thursday, July 3, 2014

Making a Nina out of a moleHIll?

unnamed, N.R. (Nina Hill), 10"x14", oil on MDF board, 1943

    This was one of several paintings offered by a North Carolina seller on ebay in October 2013. Some were signed "Nina Hill" and some had no visible signature, but all were undoubtedly by the same artist. I purchased this painting, which had no visible signature. Upon taking the painting out of the frame, I discovered a monogram, "NR 43". My guess would be, based on the fact that one painting was signed by Nina Hill and dated 1958, that she married a man named Hill after 1943 and before 1958, though the name change could also have been the result of a divorce. The sellers of this painting could not remember where and when they purchased it:

"I wish I could have more to tell you, we are in our mid 70s and have been to many sales over the years. We purchased the painting approx. 15 to 20 years ago. Possibly from a sale in the Pinehurst, N.C. area. I have no idea as to time of year."

    Several of the paintings were in Art Deco frames, similar to the one on my painting. There are a half dozen women named Nina Hill in North Carolina in the Social Security Death Index, though none were in the vicinity of Pinehurst. Note that the style of the trees in the 1943 and 1958 paintings are very similar, which may indicate that this artist's work and style were mature by 1943 and that she had been working for some time by then. The 1958 painting was later resold at auction attributed as the Nina Hill 1877-1970 who is weakly listed on This attribution seems very iffy, based on the lack of any other information about this artist on that site, or in the auction listing. There is also no Nina Hill with these dates listed in the Social Security Death Index. There are several paintings at various auction house sites attributed to a British artist named Nina Hill 1877-1970 and her work does bear some similarity to this artist's work but not similar enough, in my opinion, to conclude that all of these works are by the same artist. The Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940 by Johnson gives the following information about the British Nina Hill:

"Hill, Mrs. Nina. Exh 1927-1936. Flower and still life painter. Reigate, Surrey, 1927; Westerham, Kent, 1933. L 1, RA 5, RBA 1, RHA 1, RI 12, RSA 2. "

Any help in sorting this out would be appreciated!

 Nina Hill monogram

Other Nina Hill paintings and signatures

Do you ken Helen?

unnamed, Helen Ken, 9"x12", oil on board

    This was an ebay find from some years ago. I am calling it a plein aire sketch. It is actually quite striking from the proper distance, and well done, IMHO. There is another painting, another sketch, verso, along with an inscription, all of which is fairly clear, except for the name of the town where it was painted in New York. The artist recorded that she painted this work while spending the summer with her "Aunt Lilian". I believe the artist's last name is Ken, but it might be Kent. I have not been able to find an artist by either name. The name of the town appears to be Braincliff, and I wondered if it might actually be "Briarcliff" but can't quite make that fit with the artist's scribble. It is possible that it is "Briarcliff" and was misspelled by the artist.  I found several Helen Kens in searching records on who are candidates to be this woman, but just don't have enough information to make the identification. Help!